Hello from Rio de Janeiro Brazil. I ran into an old friend on Ipanema beach and he asked me how we do it. In case anyone was wondering, PC Pitstop is a virtual company. Our company is comprised of 15 full time employees, 2 part time employees, and 2 contract employees, all run in a virtual manner from our homes. The answer to my buddy’s question is two basic things. Communication and technology. Or perhaps, better put, technology that enables communication. These are the key technologies that are the glue that keeps us running as a cohesive company.
VOIP – Perhaps the most important technology is VOIP. All of our employees have a VOIP line, and we use the gamut from Vonage, Broadvoice, Packet 8 and so on. VOIP is particularly useful for me here in Rio de Janeiro since I have a US number that rings here in Brazil. Better yet, I have unlimited US calling for $25/month.
Another alternative we never use is Skype. The problem is that Skype ties your phone to your PC, and one handset. I have 6 handsets connected to my VOIP box giving me the freedom to work in any room of my house.
GoToMeeting – We could not run PC Pitstop effectively without GoToMeeting. For one small monthly price, two incredibly important technologies. First, we have unlimited teleconferences. Not a day goes by when we don’t have a teleconference amongst ourselves, or perhaps with suppliers, or customers. GoToMeeting is our virtual conference room.
Perhaps even more importantly, GoToMeeting has a technology that allows one person to broadcast their PC screen to another person or better yet a group of people. We have discovered so many innovative ways to use this technology. Here are just a few. Training, getting help on finding a software bug, software demonstrations, and group presentations. We are just scratching the surface for this technology and we couldn’t live without it.
Survey Monkey. We primarily use Survey Monkey to survey our users, and our customers, but guess what? You can also use survey monkey to quickly and easily survey our employees. It has turned out to be another weapon in our arsenal to keep us a cohesive company.
Monster – Perhaps one of the largest advantages of being a virtual company is that we can hire anyone anywhere. Our recruiting efforts are not limited to geography. We have tried all of the major recruiting services, HotJobs, Career Builder and Monster. For us at PC Pitstop, Monster is the best. Their user interface is easiest to use for multiple recruiters. Although we have tried all of them, all of our recruits have come from Monster.
Google Docs – Everyone uses MS Office. After all, it is the standard for business throughout the world. That said, we also use Google Docs for two reasons. Centralized documentation. We store company wide pieces of information in a centralized location using Google Docs. Things like the company contact list, and the company health plan all have links to Google Docs. That way, there is only one official copy residing inside Google Docs.
More importantly, Google Docs surpasses MS Office in one key area. Working as a group. Google Docs allows multiple people in multiple locations work on the same document simultaneously. This is a truly fantastic feature that allows us to more easily share ideas. We have also used Google Docs to allow our developers to track the real time status of their projects from multiple locations.
PC Pitstop – Last but certainly not least is PC Pitstop. Just like any company, our computers are our lifeline to the outside world. It is critical that our PCs are running at maximum performance and security. PC Pitstop OverDrive has been invaluable in helping us remotely diagnose computer problems.
With gas pricing spiking, the dollar weakening, and a pending recession, I believe that virtual companies are a trend of the future. Hopefully, PC Pitstop and the other companies above will benefit from this trend, and offset the ravages of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression.